Former Federal Air Marshal Sentenced In Workers’ Comp Scheme

Liz Carey

Providence, RI (WorkersCompensation.com) – A former Federal Air Marshal will have to pay back nearly a quarter of a million dollars that he collected in workers’ compensation benefits after he pleaded guilty to concealing his role in a martial arts business.

Joseph Patrick Watterson, 52, of Newport, pleaded guilty in November 2020 to making false statements in order to obtain federal workers’ compensation benefits. Appearing via video before District Judge William Smith, Watterson accepted the government’s charges and facts of the case.

On Thursday, Jan. 28, Watterson was sentenced to two years’ probation and ordered to pay $241,118.52 by U.S. District Court Judge William E. Smith.

Watterson faced a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

According to U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island Attorney Aaron L. Weisman, Watterson claimed on forms for the United States Department of Labor, Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) that he was not employed. Later, after admitting that he was self-employed, Watterson downplayed his role at Two Swords Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, saying it was along the lines of being administrative and involved “cleaning and maintaining school, share in bookkeeping” in order to ensure that his OWCP benefits would not be reduced or terminated, Weisman said.

In fact, Watterson was part owner in the martial arts business and was actively engaged in teaching Jiu jitsu.

According to Two Swords Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, instructor Marcos Dixon started the martial arts academy in 2011 after moving to Rhode Island from Hawaii. Watterson is not listed as an instructor at the school.

Calls and messages to Two Swords Brazilian Jiu Jitsu were not immediately returned. The company has posted nothing to its Facebook page since August 15, 2020.

Watterson isn’t the only former federal employee to plead guilty to workers’ comp benefits fraud lately.

Another Former Fed Worker Guilty

On Jan. 6, Ronald Repass, of Poolesville, Md., pleaded guilty to making false statements in order to obtain federal employees’ disability compensation. Repass admitted that he falsely claimed he was unable to work, despite the fact that he had worked various jobs between June 2016 and February 2019.

Repass was employed by the U.S. Postal Services in Montgomery County, Md., when he fell and hurt his right shoulder while working as a postal carrier. Repass filed and was granted workers’ compensation benefits. OWCP determined that he could not work because of a “right rotator cuff tear” and would be paid approximately $3,227 per month starting February 22,2015.

Repass was required to sign and complete a form certifying that they had not worked for the past 15 months every year, and to report any improvement in their medical condition, or any employment. Repass signed and submitted those forms in 2016, 2017 and 2018, despite having worked as a snowplow driver, a service advisor at an automotive repair shop, a field supervisor for a home improvement company, a plumber, a window blinds installer and a lawn mower.

As a result, the government alleged Repass received as much as $62,690.44 in workers’ compensation that he was not entitled to.

Repass will be sentenced on March 29, 2021.

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